Easter, Eggs, Bunnies and the Bible?
By Joseph Hubbard 2022
© Copyright Creation Research, 2022
ln 2 Timothy 6:20, the Apostle Paul warns against false knowledge being used to lead people astray. lndeed, this is a major tactic of the secular world (one only has to look Lyell & Darwin to see this), but it is also sadly predominant amongst Christians. And sometimes you’ll find people over-zealously advocating for a particular part of scripture, only when you dig deeper you realise that what they’re arguing over has nothing to do with scripture at all! And even worse – nothing to do with real history in the slightest.
One such example is a recent article published by Creation Ministries lnternational (CMl), written by Jonathan Sarfati. The article discusses whether Easter has pagan origins, and some of the common objection to timings, how long Jesus was in the grave for, etc. Overall, the article makes use of some fairly standard apologetics that have been covered many times before. However, in the discussions of the Pagan origin of Easter, several dubious claims begin to surface.
It begins with a discussion of the origin of the word ‘Easter’. A long-time argument is that this is derived from the similar-sounding ‘Astarte’ – the Babylonian goddess of sex and fertility, symbolised by the rising sun. Sarfati makes the case that the word Easter has nothing to do with this Babylonian goddess, since the word derives from the Germanic Anglo-Saxon. He argues that the Anglo-Saxon prefixes Aus – Ost – Est – East come from “auferstehn” (meaning resurrection) and thus “auferstehn” being the origin of the word Easter. But even a simple check in the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins shows us that the Germanic ‘East’ is derived from an lndo-European base, referring to the point of a compass at which the sun rises, meaning not only ‘east’ as we know it now, but also dawn – a rising sun. lt’s Germanic sense ‘austo’ (which Sarfati argues means ‘resurrection’) is the source of Austron’- the name of the goddess of the prehistoric Germanic peoples, originally the dawn-goddess, whose festival occurred in Spring. Her Old English name was Eastre, her symbol is the egg – a sign of sex and fertility, same as Astarte.
So, is the Astarte Babylonian connection simply a “conspiratorial fantasy” as Sarfati puts it? Well, it pays to read up on your history. Bizarrely, Sarfati manages to write an entire article on the history of Easter, all but briefly mentioning the Synod of Whitby (and even then, not by name), where the Celtic Christians clashed with the Catholics of Rome over the dating, timing and customs of Easter. There is clear influence of pagan festivities in the Roman customs that the Catholics were bringing over, as opposed to the Passover-based feast that the Celtic Christians had. Moreover, the Germanic tribes had clear influence from the old Babylonians as well- through the Etruscan culture. The Etruscans held the territory of what is now upper ltaly and into Austria, which is of Germanic heritage, rather than Latin. How did the goddess get that far into Europe? The Greeks worshiped her as Aphrodite and Artemis, and so did the Phoenicians – two cultures that spoke lndo European languages and sailed into many a harbour in Sicily, Sardinia, and the lower boot of ltaly. And the consistent connection between all these goddesses? Their name, their purpose (sex & fertility), and the connection to a rising star/sun.
The Tower of Babel was the first ultimate rebellion after Noah’s Flood – one people, of one language, worshiping one central pagan belief system. lt makes perfect sense that the Mesopotamian area is the epicentre for paganism, with the same connections and pagan thread moving out into the world. The goddess of sex and fertility, with her connection to rising stars, can be seen throughout the ancient world. But what of other ‘Easter symbolism’? Safarti has more to say on that also.
He makes the case that Easter eggs come from the lent tradition of giving up certain foods until Easter – at first this sounds a reasonable connection. However, the egg-connection to paganism goes back much further (for instance, the goddess Eastre and her symbol of fertility – the egg). Rather than Christians ‘coming up’ with the idea of celebrating eggs, it seems far more likely that they simply adopted a pagan custom and attributed a Biblical concept to it, as has been done throughout the history of Christianity. This is seen with the first reference to Christians using Easter eggs, where they painted eggs in red to represent the blood of Jesus. But perhaps the most bizarre connection Sarfati makes is with Easter Bunnies. He states:
“The Easter bunny goes back to German Lutherans, not pagans, although it was a hare, probably in the same created kind as the rabbit (laporid). Because of their proverbially high fertility rate, ancient writers such as Pliny the Elder and Plutarch thought it was hermaphroditic and could thus reproduce without fertilization. Then Christians used this as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.”
One Facebook commenter summed this up well by saying:
“This author loses all credibility with this stretch. So an animal that is highly fertile was chosen by early Christians to symbolize Mary the virgin? Thus the Easter Bunny is a Christian symbol. lnsane. Even if that mental gymnastics were true, it should be the Christmas Bunny since we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ not Easter (the crucifixion of Christ)!”
It is interesting that Sarfati mentions no references to back up this idea, and the earliest reference we can find to hares/rabbits certainly seems to have pagan influence, in connection to both the Anglo Saxon goddess, as well as Roman and Mesopotamian customs. ln fact, he goes one step further, simply claiming that any and all references to paganism in Easter celebrations have no basis in reality. Sarfati dismisses Bede’s account of Eostre as his “own theorising rather than any knowledge of ancient pagan customs”, although if we take that attitude, we are left with very little knowledge of anything with regards to the history of ancient Britain – as Bede really is our authority in that – and an original! Part of Bede’s importance is that he was the first and only one to record detailed history. Sarfati claims that one of the major problems with Bede’s account is the ‘lack of corroboration for this Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre anywhere else.’ And yet, even as far back as the 1950s, over 150 Romano-Germanic votive inscriptions to deities named the matronae Austriahenae, which scholars have linked etymologically with Eostre and an element found in Germanic personal names. Scholars such as Shaw (2011) argue that this gives credibility to Bede’s writings – particularly as Bede’s writings were so early, he would certainly have known the names of local gods and goddesses, which certainly weren’t extinct while he was around.
Earnstly attempting to prove that the dates, times, and particulars of the modern Easter celebrations did not derive from pagan origins, not only has no real connection to the gospel, but at the worst is likely to actually drive people from the truth. I mean – let’s face it, even if Christians did ‘invent’ these things, bunnies, eggs, and chocolate have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity or the gospel. Does this mean that we should throw out the Easter celebrations all together? No, of course not! lnstead, understand real history, see how easily the truth is corrupted, and use it in evangelism! Easter is the time of year that we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – continue to do so! But make sure you are only giving people the true knowledge of who Jesus Christ is and why he came. Remember – the only connection that Jesus has to bunnies and eggs is that He is the creator of all!
© Copyright Creation Research, 2022